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i'm super, thanks for asking

earlier today, i posted [re-posted] a piece on my facebook page called "17 things that women without children are tired of hearing". i was surprised at how popular this became, even with people i know who do have children, because apparently the parents who i know [a pretty incredible lot] are perfectly aware that not everyone is cut out to be a parent. more specifically, they know i'm not cut out to be a parent.

one friend [himself a loving and involved dad] pointed out that men aren't subjected to the same sort of cross-examination. a man who doesn't want kids just doesn't want kids. but a woman who doesn't want kids is somehow an affront to nature. another friend who is perfectly comfortable with her choice shared that she has been subject to some pretty rude questions, which basically boil down to the assertion that a woman who doesn't want children must have something wrong with her. she must be bad or deficient in some way because that's what women are there for. think about the gross implications of that for a moment.

another friend of mine [male] reported getting the same condescending speech that all non-breeders have faced at some point in our lives: you think you won't like it until it happens. that's the logic the date rapist uses! but what truly irks me about that approach is the implication: you'll never know how good or bad a parent you can be unless you have a kid. do they apply that logic to any other area of their life?

there are lots of things i know, without trying, that i would be terrible at. parenting is one of them. building a mars rover was the example i posted on facebook. diffusing a bombs would be another. no one as high strung as i am has any business being the person deciding which wire to cut. i have an aunt who's trekked on foot through the wilds of pakistan and india and advocated for women's rights there. i don't have that in me and that doesn't mean i'm not in awe of the skills it takes to do such things. it's just that i know those things aren't my forte. and i know that child-rearing isn't my forte.

but for some reason, people are just unwilling to accept my informed opinion on the children thing. they accept without any evidence that i'm an inappropriate nasa scientist, an incredibly poor choice for bomb squad captain and the person most likely to die in a convoy crossing the narrow passage from india to pakistan. why should parenting be so different?

and i should add that my family, knowing me as they do, are completely understanding about my desire to never, ever bring more of me into the world.

the most common thing that i have to face from those who just won't take no for an answer is that women naturally have maternal instincts, as if somehow those instincts are going to go all haywire and start shooting lasers or shooting acid out my eyes or generally doing something that's going to make my life [and the lives of everyone around me] into a horror movie.

i'm perplexed by this, because the people who say this to me generally know me. and yet they seriously seem to think that a. i'm unaware that biology has given me some measure of maternal instinct; and b. that that maternal instinct must be repressed if i don't have a human baby.

it's like they've never even met me.

if i were to raise a child, we'd probably be looking at the next "silence of the lambs" "buffalo bill", dancing around to colin newman and bad new wave, cultivating an unhealthy interest in fashion and physical beauty, and undoubtedly holding some screaming victim in a dark pit in the basement. as i pointed out today, anything i make would have a pretty good chance of becoming a serial killer. anything. i have to think about those serial killer odds every time i make a grilled cheese sandwich.

i do have children. five of them. i've had a psychiatrist listen to me talk about them and observe, with some shock since she's one of those "women need to have babies" types, that my way of relating to my cats is exactly the same as how a "normal" mother relates to children. which has always been my point.

i know i'm not cut out to raise a little human. but i have a wonderful, happy, loving relationship with my little furbabies. i am thrilled when i make them happy. i fuss over them when they seem sad or lethargic. my heart beats faster when i see them. shoveling their leavings is no big deal to me because it's just part of having them and the good parts so outweigh a little bit of smelliness.

that doesn't make me deficient. it makes me a good decision-maker. so please stop asking why i haven't had children. i have, in my way. and since i didn't make them, there's a fighting chance they won't be killing any of you any time soon.

happy international cat day from a woman who knows her place.

Comments

I love this post! I think the reason people accept that you'd be a poor NASA scientist but not that you'd be a poor parent is that there are all kinds of barriers to becoming a NASA scientist, but almost no barriers to becoming a parent. Few people could design rockets or defuse bombs even if they wanted to, because there's a system that ensures (more or less) that unqualified people won't make it that far. There's no such system for parenting. Because pretty much everyone *can* do it and is *allowed* to do it, the assumption is that everyone *should* do it.

(I am by no means advocating for a fascist dystopia that regulates childbearing, fyi. But it would be great if more people were self-aware enough to realize that they'd be terrible parents.)
Kate MacDonald said…
Glad you enjoyed it! You're absolutely right that people just don't take having children seriously enough. Of course I want people to have children- I'm depending on those children to fix the mess of the world so that I can enjoy my old age- but being a parent is a lot more than just a biological function. It's something that does take a particular sort of character and a tremendous amount of strength. Not everyone is cut out for the job.
Martin Rouge said…
I do occasionally get the "don't you want kids/you'll change when you get them" bullshit. I haven't wanted kids for over twenty years, and I have no intention of testing the waters at any time. I get a similar reaction when I say that I don't have a driving license and never learned how to drive, and further, am not interested to do so. They try to come up with all kinds of arguments as to why driving is awesome, and all I keep thinking is how awesome it is to travel to places in a manner that allows me to read, sleep, or watch a movie while somebody else does the work. It's one of those things that are part of people's life checklists. Driver's license? Check. Kids? Check. Mortgage? Check. Retirement fund? Check. And then you see how bad they are at math when they bring out the old chestnut of "who's going to take care of you in your old age?" Well, if you add up all the costs of raising children, and put that money towards a retirement fund, I think that you'll find out that not having a little peon mow the lawn for you is a great investment later in life. And mowing the lawn is not that big of a chore, bud.
Kate MacDonald said…
I sometimes wonder if the people who ask those questions aren't a little insecure in their own choices. Like somehow my choice not to have children is threatening because it shows that you don't have to have children. The best parents I know never ask why I don't have kids.

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